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Eliminate Distracted Driving

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One of the main reasons Gene Lopez, director of development and training at Seidner’s Collision Centers, was hired was because of his passion for training and continued education. After a 14-year career in the aerospace and oil industry, Lopez reached out to the Seidners, owners of the 14-location California MSO, to see about getting involved in the collision repair industry. Lopez has volunteered with I-CAR since 1994 and developed a background working with high schools and colleges. The Seidners found Lopez’s passion and experience with recruiting appealing, so in 1998, he was brought on to work with Seidner’s.

After 10 years working with Seidner’s, Lopez left to work for I-CAR as a national and regional manager for seven years. Lopez became heavily involved in training and became educated regarding the need for it in the industry. Lopez made the decision to come back to Seidner’s and when he did, made it a priority to re-establish the long-standing relationships that he had with local schools. During this time, he discovered the National Auto Body Council's Distracted Driving Initative in partnership with AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign. The "It Can Wait" campaign was a perfect fit for Lopez.

Although Lopez has never personally been affected by distracted driving, preventing it is a cause near and dear to his heart. After seeing the materials and hearing the stories on how it has impacted people’s lives, Lopez has made spreading awareness of the dangers a priority. By visiting local schools and businesses, Lopez has also found that delivering the presentation has had some unexpected benefits for Seidner’s. The company is able to get its name out in the community in a positive way and has allowed him to reach younger generations and promote awareness for careers in the collision repair field.

Although the benefits for Seidner’s have been wonderful, Lopez, who has been working on the campaign for two years, says that it still has not gained the attention that he things it requires. His mission is to highlight the dangers of distracted driving by continuing to shed awareness on it.

How exactly does NABC's Distracted Driving campaign work?

The campaign is all about the dangers of distracted driving. NABC has developed a toolkit for its members that includes a set of virtual reality googles, headphones, and PowerPoint presentation materials. All of the information that is needed to give the presentation is in the tool kit. There’s the presentation that’s actually delivered to the audience and there’s also a presentation on how to deliver the presentation. The presentation is a Powerpoint made up of about 12 slides that takes about 20-30 minutes to go through.

Then come the videos. There’s one video that we show that takes about half an hour and it typically has people in tears. The presentation can be delivered to schools or to businesses. It’s amazing to see how many people have been impacted by distracted driving. A lot of people during the presentation will get up and share stories on how distracted driving has affected their lives. I personally have not experienced its impact, but I’m so much more aware of it now. I can see 10 cars ahead of me to a car whose driver is texting and driving. I make sure that if I’m coming to an intersection, I get out of their way because I know that they won’t be paying attention. I’ve downloaded two apps on my phone that won’t let me receive a text while I’m driving.

How does the campaign help your business?

It’s a very easy way to show support for your community. One of the visions of the NABC is to show a better image of the collision repair industry and that’s what Seidner’s is doing. We have a great image within the community—whether it’s our efforts at the local library or police department of the high school—and this is one way to show support.   

By getting out to local businesses and schools, we’re able to bring attention to Seidner’s and promote it. Every presentation I do, I announce the name of the shop and talk about how if they’re not driving yet, they will be soon and where they take their shop is something that they should be thinking about. I have an ulterior motive whenever I go into these schools, and that is to get these kids or their parents to come to Seidner’s if they ever get into a wreck. I’m always selling Seidner’s. Every single student in one of my presentations is going to go home with several different things with Seidner’s on it. If you’re there for 4 periods, that’s 120 different people that you’re reaching. There’s also an opportunity to promote careers at Sneiders.

Has a presentation ever led to someone starting a career at Seidner’s?

Several people have approached us after presentations. Unfortunately, we don’t always have openings or the capability to take someone on as an apprentice but it has garnered interest.

What advice would you give to a shop that’s looking to get involved in a campaign like “It Can Wait?”

Being involved is going to take effort from someone at your shop. The best advice I would give is to find someone who is available to be involved in this sort of thing without it taking time out of their business day.  I’m mostly behind the scenes at Seidner’s so customers won’t miss me if I have to leave. A small shop may not have a person like me that’s available so they may have to be creative and figure out what they have the capacity to do. I usually spend 20 hours per school year doing this. I’m able to get out to half a dozen schools at least, so the exposure is great.


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